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May 24, 2013

Grads' fulfillment can wait if need be

The Daily Star

---- — Let’s not mince words. Today’s college graduates have it rough when it comes to job prospects. 

The Associated Press recently reported that today’s workers up to age 25 face an unemployment rate of 8.2 percent, up from 5.4 percent in 2007. 

So it’s understandable that young people may have a little anxiety about entering the working world. 

College graduation ceremonies are full of well-meaning advice. 

Graduates of the State University College at Oneonta were recently encouraged by ESPN personality Sal Paolantonio to “fill each day” with something meaningful, and to strive to “make a little history.” 

Many young people, ablaze with passion and big dreams, have no problem visualizing how to fill in the blank pages of their future. 

But for other students, the path ahead is not so clear. 

It’s easy — and wholly appropriate — for us to encourage those passionate young people to follow their dreams and find a way to explore their passions. 

So what of the young people who are not driven by a single, all-consuming goal? What about those who lack a defining passion?

SUNY Oneonta’s commencement program had advice for those young people, too. 

Susan Bernardin, a professor in the English department and chairwoman of the women’s and gender studies department, asked graduates to set aside fears and other feelings tied to the end of college years and to “failing,” to not finding a job or “the right job.”

It can be hard for any graduate, passionate or not, to contemplate job prospects that may not seem to hold the key to happiness, or financial prosperity. And for those who are burning with the desire to be or do something amazing, it can be all the more difficult. 

The good news is that F. Scott Fitzgerald was wrong when he said, “There are no second acts in American lives.” In fact, young people probably do not have to look too far to find successful adults who are on their second, third or even fourth career. Today’s economy doesn’t just facilitate such transitions; it downright encourages them.  

So for those college grads who find themselves stuck slinging sandwiches when they would rather be saving the world, we say: Take heart. You still have a lot of blank pages ahead of you to fill up with meaning. And if you keep your eyes open, you may be surprised at the ways in which opportunity can be disguised. 

And to those who are less certain of the path they wish to travel, we say: Don’t worry. You can, and will, find a passion in life. And fortunately for you, it can be just as fulfilling to follow your dreams at 41 as it is at 21.